Last night, I went and saw Jane Eyre in one of the two theaters in which it is playing. (I picked the one that was less likely to have o-the-horror, or as they’re better known, bed bugs).
I should start off by saying, I am hugely, giantly, nerdily, grossly in love with Jane Eyre. It’s been my favorite book since I was fourteen. There’s something about this incredible story full of gothic mystery, love, betrayal, and passion happening to two fairly unremarkable people. I don’t think, however, that this makes my opinion on the film any harsher than it would have been if I was just a passing reader.
Alright, confession time over.
So as I said, I went to see the movie last night.
I knew something was wrong when the movie made me snicker. One should not snicker during Jane Eyre! It is not a snicker-worthy story! Some light laughter perhaps, at Jane and Rochester’s banter, a smile or two at her precociousness, even. But snicker?
The movie was just not. that. great. They did an admirable job of keeping all the relevant plot points, and even giving Jane’s story some context (for first-timers) by opening with her fleeing Thornfield. I don’t have a single issue with their adapting the story to script. My issue is that they lost all the feeling. The Red Room or when we finally meet Rochester’s mad wife for the first time – all kind of left me saying, meh. And the loving words exchanged between Jane and Rochester? Laughable. I mean literally… we laughed at them.
It’s not like literary adaptions are impossible to get right! I mean, just look at the following:
Pride & Prejudice
I was staunchly against this movie when it came out in 2005. I have never been a huge Keira Knightly fan. (I think it’s the way you can always see her bottom teeth. So weird.) Also, how dare they think that anyone but Colin Firth could ever be Mr. Darcy! Eventually, I ended up on a 10 hour flight with a broken iPod, so I sucked it up and watched the only movie available on the flight: Pride & Prejudice. I was genuinely surprised by how good it was. The acting, the script, the cinematography and the music came together and encapsulated what makes P&P such an enjoyable read.
The Importance of Being Earnest:
Again, I actually mean the newer version. Oscar Wilde has some misses on his repertoire – but the Importance of Being Earnest is not one of them. The play is brilliant and hilarious, and the movie carries it off really well.
Dangerous Liaisons / Cruel Intentions
This is a dangerous admission on my part. I think Cruel Intentions is a fairly good modern interpretation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses. As of three months ago, it was the only version of the book I’d seen in any format. Then I watched John Malcovich and Glenn Close tear it the eff up as the Vicomte and the Marquise. I mean, damn.
The list goes on: Lord of the Rings, Wuthering Heights (1939), Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz (arguably better than the book), pieces of the Harry Potter canon, Emma (2009)… IT CAN BE DONE.
So Jane Eyre, in it’s inability to honestly use what the author had provided, failed to be a successful adaptation. It had the right pieces, but lost itself in campy horror tricks, ridiculously stilted conversations, and period film cliches.
I guess you could call Jane Eyre a rental… but if you’re going to go to the movies, maybe you should think about seeing Rango instead. I hear that the animation’s, like, really good.